GROWING up by the sea, in Prestwick, Ritchie Collins spent hours investigating rock pools on the beach. "I was inspired by the idea of things being washed up," he says. "It all seemed very magical."
Now aged 27, his artwork reflects his childhood pastime: he paints big, bright landscapes of harbours set against starry skies, or cottages surrounded by sheep.
This is exactly the sort of style that author Julie Hegarty was looking for to illustrate her new children's book. When she came into the art shop where Collins works in Edinburgh's Morningside, to ask if he knew of anyone suitable, she didn't have to look any further. "I showed her my own paintings, and she said, 'You've got the job,'" he says.
Hegarty's book, Michelle in: Crabbit Comes to Stay, is about sea creatures: Michelle the scallop, Hermie the hermit crab, Crabbit the grumpy crustacean and Starfish. Collins was in his element. As well as examining real shells and crabs, he found inspiration in other sources - Celtic myths and legends, the surreal illustrations of children's books such as The Magic Roundabout, and a range of textures. "I start off with acrylics, then use hand-made papers, spray paint, oils, pastels. I just keep going until I get the desired effect."
Might there be more of the Michelle series to come? "I can't wait to do another," Collins says. "Hopefully there will be lots more in the pipeline. I'd love to do one a year for ever more."
• Just Art, 81 Morningside Road, Edinburgh (0131 447 1671, www.just-art-online.co.uk). Michelle in: Crabbit Comes to Stay, by Julie Hegarty, is out now (6.99, Starlet Publishing)